Things Old People Say

Advice, philosophy, and other useful bits of information.

Our lives are like a giant arc. We start out life as helpless little babies, learning to talk, blurting out whatever happens to be on our minds with little regard to social correctness. Most of us grow out of this stage in our late teens. At the pinnacle of our arc, somewhere around age 40, we’ve learned the rules of communication. We can get what we want with the use of slick talk and social charm. Life is good for a few years. Then we start down the decline. By age 70 we are right back where we started, blurting out whatever’s on our mind, only now we have a lifetime of experience to back our words.

Growing up, I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to spend quality time with my grandfathers. One died when I was too young to know him and my other grandpa just sat in his chair and stared at his favorite TV shows: Hollywood Squares and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.. I did have some old codgers at church though. Maurice Carver was one of my favorites. He told me stories of life back in the 20’s. He loved to talk about his drawer full of cash that he earned from trapping skunks. He also told of winning trap shoots with his trusty old pump gun, shooting from the hip. “You don’t have to look down the sights” he’d explain, “Just follow the pigeon with your eyes and pull the trigger. You’ll hit it every time.” For some reason it didn’t work like that when I tried it.

Maurice’s wife passed away and after a short courtship he married Lula Landon, a local spinster. Art Pierson, another old gentleman proclaimed at church one day, “Maurice remarried at 70- some years of age and found another virgin!” I won’t go into detail about some of the more colorful old fellows.

My own father was a man of few words, but when he spoke, gems flowed out of his mouth. He had a saying for every situation that arose on the farm. One day he was trying to disc up some clods out in the field to no avail. “I just as well be dragging a turkey backwards out there” he’d say in disgust later. On another occasion he grunted “I’ll be a sad sack, this miserable whelp won’t break loose” as he torqued away on a rusted bolt. Then in the house, the fire alarm would go off and dad casually announced “Supper’s ready”.

I will never forget the fall afternoon that I rode with dad to deliver our last load of corn to Bossen Livestock. The corn price was at rock bottom, $1.35 per bushel. Dad walked out of the office with his check, the payment for all those days of planting, cultivating, irrigating and harvesting. He crawled in the truck and stared at the check for a minute then announced “ We just as well went fishing this summer.” Those words hit me like a brick, why didn’t we just go fishing? It would have been cheaper and a whole lot more fun. Later in life I put those words to good use when I started my fishing guide service.

One summer we were having a family camp at the farm. All twenty seven of us kids and grand kids were eating homemade ice cream around picnic tables. One of my sisters said “Just think Dad, where would you be tonight if you hadn’t married Mom?” Dad though for a moment then said “I guess I would be sitting out here eating ice cream alone.”

I guess someday, if I live long enough, maybe I’ll be one of those old codgers spewing out words of wisdom to anyone willing to listen… and if I can’t find anyone to listen, then I’ll probably just talk to myself… as I sit out there eating my ice cream.

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